I WAS GLAD I CAUGHT a lot of Harry Christopher "Skip" Caray Jr. in the last game he broadcast, which was last Thursday. The Braves were at home against the Cardinals, and Skip was in the booth with his longtime partner, Pete Van Wieren. Between the first pitch and the fifth inning I was in various places where I used my trusty XM Radio to check in on the game, and, then, when I got home, I turned to the Braves MLB website and listened from there through the final out, as described, if I remember correctly, by Skip.
Skip started announcing Braves games in 1976, first on radio and then also on TBS. I was already familiar with his work, since he also did the Hawks (the NBA team in Atlanta), and I was impressed by the quality of his basketball broadcasts. Of course, I was familiar, too, with the work of his father, Harry Caray, the Baseball Hall of Famer who broadcast the Cardinals for so many years (fitting, it was, that Skip's last broadcast was a Cardinals/Braves game, which, by the way, the Braves won).
Among the Braves announcers, Skip was always the one I was most eager to hear. He refused to excuse bad baseball on the part of the Braves, though he was for the Braves, and he exulted when the team finally broke through and won a World Series in 1995. He respected opponents by recognizing their excellent play, even if the play was by some journeyman just recalled from the minors. Significantly, he knew how to keep you interested in a game regardless of whether the Braves were in the midst of yet another losing season (in the 70s and 80s) or of another season heading toward a division title, or better (1991 through 2005). Skip could entertain his audience.
Indeed, his greatest asset was his humor, well described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mark Bradley. You never knew when he'd use it, or against whom. I didn't know Skip personally, but I once saw for myself a flash of his wit. Many years ago, in one of my first newspaper jobs--in Greensboro, N.C.--I interviewed him when he was in town broadcasting a Hawks exhibition game and then wrote an article lauding his play-by-play excellence. A few weeks later I received from him a clip of the piece on which he had written that someone sent it to him obviously mistaken that it could have been about him. One reason I listened to Skip was that I knew he could make himself the target of his humor. And sometimes he did that--on air.
Skip, who had had multiple health problems in recent years yet kept on broadcasting the Braves, died yesterday while taking a nap. Over at the Braves site at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution you'll find many posts mourning his passing. Baseball is America's greatest game, but not every team is favored with a broadcaster who not only knows the game but also knows the club's narrative over time and who can consistently entertain his listeners. It was the Braves' good fortune that they had such a broadcaster in Skip Caray.
Terry Eastland is publisher of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.